Dell’s helping its own storage arrays see eye to eye

With new software, Storage Center and EqualLogic systems get common management and replication

Making storage systems work together can be a headache even if they’re both from the same vendor. Dell is taking some steps to ease that pain.

New operating systems will help to bridge the gap between Dell’s Storage Center and EqualLogic PS arrays, giving administrators a single management interface and a way to replicate data between the two systems. Storage Center OS 7, announced Thursday, and PS 9.0 will roll out as free upgrades over the next few months.

SCOS 7 also comes with other improvements, including better data reduction and tools to ensure applications get the right quality of service from SC arrays. But the PS integration caps years of development that Dell would have liked to finish sooner, said Alan Atkinson, vice president and general manager of Dell Storage.

The SC line of virtualized storage systems came from Compellent, which Dell acquired in 2010. EqualLogic was an even earlier acquisition, in 2007. Only now can they be managed with one tool and carry out bi-directional replication.

It takes a long time to integrate storage products from acquired vendors, and the problem isn’t unique to Dell, said IDC analyst Liz Conner. Both hardware and software pose technical challenges. “They’re not always Lego bricks,” she said.

Typically, the bigger the vendor, the longer it takes. So with Dell about to take over EMC, customers may be in for a long wait for things like unified management, Conner said.

The DSM (Dell Storage Manager) software the company announced on Thursday is a common management platform for EqualLogic PS and FS systems as well as SC arrays. It’s a user interface is based on HTML5, so it can be adapted for mobile devices like tablets and phones, Atkinson said.

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Can robots make art? Yes – but don’t ask them to write a poem

“Our algorithms seem not yet able to imitate human kinds of poetry,” one organizer said

Robots can paint, but when it comes to writing, they shouldn’t quit their day jobs. That’s the combined conclusion from results of two contests announced this week.

On the upside, artificial intelligence created some pretty impressive works for’s first annual $100,000 competition, the results of which were announced Tuesday.

The contest challenged artists and engineers to create a robot that painted like a real artist. Essentially, the aim was to get “as many teams as possible to set up a robot that can do any sort of painting,” the contest site explains. Fifteen teams from seven countries responded with more than 70 robot-created paintings made with a variety of techniques.

Robots were judged through a combination of public voting, professional opinion and how well the team met the spirit of the competition. First place and $30,000 went to TAIDA, a robotic arm from National Taiwan University that painted “in a manner very similar to a classical painter,” the contest’s organizers said.

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US agency releases privacy ‘best practices’ for drone use

The guidance released by NTIA for drone users is voluntary

The National Telecommunications & Information Administration released Thursday a list of voluntary privacy best practices for commercial and non-commercial drone users, in the wake of concerns that drones could encroach on individual privacy and open a new front in the collection of personal data for commercial use.

The privacy guidance, arrived at in consensus with drone organizations and companies like Amazon and Google’s parent Alphabet, recommends that drone operators who collect personal data should have a privacy policy that explains what personally identifiable information they will collect, for what purpose the data is collected and if it will be shared with others, including in response to requests from law enforcement agencies.

The guidelines also encourage drone operators to avoid using or sharing personal data for marketing purposes without consent of the individual. Drone operators should also not use personal data without consent for “employment eligibility, promotion, or retention; credit eligibility; or health care treatment eligibility other than when expressly permitted by and subject to the requirements of a sector-specific regulatory framework.”

Data collected should also not be held beyond a reasonable period, without the consent of the individual, or in exceptional circumstances, such as legal disputes or safety incidents.

The recommendations also suggest that operators should minimize activities by drones, also known as unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), over or within private property without consent of the property owner or without appropriate legal authority.

“In the absence of a compelling need to do otherwise, or consent of the data subjects, UAS operators should avoid using UAS for the specific purpose of intentionally collecting covered data where the operator knows the data subject has a reasonable expectation of privacy,” according to the guidance released after a meeting of stakeholders on the previous day.

President Barack Obama in a memorandum in February last year instructed the NTIA to convene a process to develop and communicate best practices for privacy, accountability, and transparency issues regarding UAS use. The NTIA is located within the Department of Commerce.

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Silicon Valley’s tech workforce diversity has long way to go, say feds

In recent years, major high-tech firms have started releasing workforce diversity data, along with a promise to improve. And there is much room for improvement, according to federal officials.

Among the top 75 Silicon Valley tech firms, whites make up 47% of the workforce, Asian Americans 41%, Hispanics, 6% and African Americans 3%, according to an analysis by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The commission held a hearing Wednesday on diversity in technology and to consider ways to improve it.

Women account for 30% of the workforce at these 75 firms.

The high-tech firms included in this list of 75 were based on a San Jose Mercury News ranking of top technology firms in Silicon Valley.

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Google I/O 2016: Every Android App really – is coming to Chrome

Google’s bringing its entire Android mobile app library to Chromebooks

Google’s bringing its entire Android mobile app library to Chromebooks – the company announced today at its annual I/O developer conference, thanks to an innovative system of containerization.

Every Android app on Google Play will run on Chrome OS devices – as long as their hardware is compatible. (For example, an app requiring a cellular modem might not work on most Chromebooks.) A list of compatible devices will be maintained here. The feature will be rolled out to the developer channel within the next couple of weeks, and will be in the hands of users “later this year.”

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Gadget review: Navman, My Escape III

There’s no excuse to get lost with a Navman My Escape III. Photo / Supplied
Navman My Escape III
RRP $459

Confession: I’ve got such a terrible sense of direction that it’s a miracle I can find my way home at night. I definitely should have been an early adopter of a GPS navigation system, but instead I’ve struggled away over the years, listening badly to verbal directions, completely misreading maps and catching subway trains in the wrong direction. Last year I borrowed a fancy BMW X3 35d that had an in-built navigation system and it was like the sun came out. I was immediately converted.

Last month I took a Navman My Escape III to the East Cape, where a friend and I were roadtripping by campervan.

This portable unit has an easy-to-use 7-inch touchscreen and plenty of handy features such as voice command, speed limits, driver fatigue alerts, and live traffic information.

There’s no need to carefully tap the Navman’s screen with a fingernail or stylus to get it to respond – it’s as sensitive as a smartphone, which is definitely an improvement on GPS units I’ve used in the past.

When you tap in an address you get four options for your route – fastest, economical, easiest and shortest – which sometimes, of course, are all the same.

A handy panel down the right of the display tells you progress stats including distance to go and time of arrival.

Pop-ups alert you to delays ahead, you can look up where to find the closest petrol station, ATM, accommodation and a selection of food outlets, and a Bluetooth function allows you to connect your smartphone so you can answer calls.

We found it most useful when driving between Whakatane and Rotorua relying entirely on the “fastest” route option. This led us down all manner of quiet country roads along state highways 2, 34 and 30, but got us there much quicker than if we’d bumbled along the main roads ourselves.

There is also a setting for pedestrian navigation, though the device is quite hefty – like an thick, heavy tablet – so I can’t imagine lugging it around in my handbag.

For my purposes I wasn’t sure it needed to be quite so big, and I would definitely think twice about taking it overseas.

It’s ideal for a big vehicle, but although the window suction attachment is really handy, the windscreen itself was quite far away for pushing and prodding. We found it easier for the passenger to hold onto the device while it was in operation.

One thing’s for sure, with one of these in the car, I’ve got no excuse for ever getting lost again.


New app could be life-saver for diabetics

The wireless and waterproof device contains an activity tracker that can measure blood sugar levels and automatically calibrate how much of the drug to deliver. Photo / istock
The days of diabetics needing to inject themselves with insulin may be numbered, thanks to an app-controlled pump that can be worn on the arm or stomach, delivering life-saving medication round the clock.

The wireless and waterproof device contains an activity tracker – not unlike those found in fitness bands – that can measure blood sugar levels and automatically calibrate how much of the drug to deliver.

It can be programmed by a hand- held controller the size of a smartphone so that precise amounts of insulin are pushed from the integrated cartridge through a cannula and port into the bloodstream.

It also wirelessly communicates with an online app which keeps an automatic log of treatment, and monitors and records glucose levels continuously. The data can be viewed on a website by users, young patients’ parents and doctors.

Diabetes is a condition where levels of blood sugar, or glucose, become too high. It is caused by the pancreas gland, part of the digestive system, failing to produce any or insufficient amounts of insulin, the hormone that controls glucose levels in the blood.

Type 1 diabetes – caused by the immune system turning inward and attacking the healthy pancreas – affects about 400,000 people in the UK. Type 2 diabetes, where not enough insulin is produced to meet demand, affects more than three million people. Risk factors include being overweight and age.

All sufferers of type 1 diabetes, and some with more advanced type 2, take synthetic insulin. The hormone has to get directly into the bloodstream and it is traditionally given as injections. The downside is that patients need to judge how much insulin to self-administer depending on what they have eaten and how active they have been.

If they inject too little, high glucose levels occur, which can lead to long-term complications. Too much leaves the patient at risk of hypoglycaemia – or a ‘hypo’ – where there is too little blood sugar. This can result in loss of consciousness and convulsions.


PayPal pulls out of US state with anti-gay laws

Paypal is cancelling plans to bring 400 jobs to North Carolina after lawmakers passed a law that restricts protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Photo / AP
US online payment giant PayPal dropped plans to invest millions of dollars in North Carolina, joining a growing chorus of protests by major companies against recently passed state legislation targeting transgender people.

PayPal’s move came as another state, Mississippi, signed into law a measure that allows government officials and businesses to deny gay people service if it conflicts with their religious beliefs.

The legislation is part of a series of measures that have been labeled anti-gay that are sweeping southern states.

The North Carolina law, known as HB2, prohibits local governments within the state from enacting policies protecting the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community from discrimination at public facilities and restrooms.

It specifically requires that transgender people use the restroom corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates.

“The new law perpetuates discrimination and it violates the values and principles that are at the core of PayPal’s mission and culture,” the company said in a statement.

“As a result, PayPal will not move forward with our planned expansion into Charlotte,” it said.

PayPal had planned to invest $3.6 million in a global operations center in Charlotte, North Carolina that would have employed more than 400 people.


Debbie Mayo-Smith: Work faster turn on Gmail preview pane

To save time, previewing your emails without having to open each one to see what is inside. Photo / iStock
Over the past few weeks I had been working on a presentation for the Wellington Regional Primary (school) Principals Association. One of the surprising facts that came out of the preconference online survey I conducted was that 89 per cent of the principals (thus schools) used Gmail and Google Docs.

Therefore of course I had to update my skills and knowledge of these two programs.

While I’m an avid Outlook fan because of the stunning integration with the other Microsoft software – such as calendar, Excel and Word, you could have blown me away with a feather with the new Gmail features I discovered.


Facebook app describes photos for the blind

Facebook is training its computers to become seeing-eye guides for blind and visually impaired people as they scroll through the pictures posted on the world’s largest online social network.

The feature rolling out on Facebook’s iPhone and iPad apps today interprets what’s in a picture using a form of artificial intelligence that recognizes faces and objects.

VoiceOver, a screen reader built into the software powering the iPhone and iPad, must be turned on for Facebook’s photo descriptions to be read. For now, the feature will only be available in English.

Until now, people relying on screen readers on Facebook would only hear that a person had shared a photo without any elaboration.

The photo descriptions initially will be confined to a vocabulary of 100 words in a restriction that will prevent the computer from providing a lot of details.

For instance, the automated voice may only tell a user that a photo features three people smiling outdoors without adding that the trio also has drinks in their hands. Or it may say the photo is of pizza without adding that there’s pepperoni and olives on top of it.

Facebook is being careful with the technology, called “automatic alternative text,” in an attempt to avoid making a mistake that offends its audience.

Google learned the risks of automation last year when an image recognition feature in its Photos app labeled a black couple as gorillas, prompting the company to issue an apology.